Last week I had the honor of co-leading a landscape photography workshop in one of the most beautiful parts of the USA – the Palouse. My co-leader was Gary Hamburgh – AKA “The Palouse Guy.” Gary has lived in the Palouse area for many years and has photographed there for most of a decade.
We were joined by a sold-out crowd of 12 enthusiastic photographers. The group had a bonus instructor. Bambi Cantrell, one of the greatest wedding and portrait photographers of our time also spent the week with us both shooting and helping to teach.
I personally don’t teach many field workshops these days. I’m getting too old to shlep gear around the hills at 4:00 AM! But this is one I am glad I taught. Not only did help my students get some great images – I got some too! That’s a win-win.
But what really struck me was how much I personally learned. I learned from almost everyone on the trip.
Let’s start with Gary. Gary has been my protge for about seven years. He’s as hard a worker as anyone I’ve ever met. His permanent upbeat, positive attitude made him a great learner when we first started out and those traits make him an even better shooter now that he’s gone pro. Gary has assisted me on several workshops but this time, I let him take the reigns. There were a few bumps in the road – which is to be expected the first time you lead a workshop – but Gary, as expected, handled them professionally and well. I learned that Gary is fully ready to move out from my tutelage. He’s been selling and showing work for several years now and is capable of leading workshops on his own. I’m proud of the way Gary has advanced his career and thankful that I had a small part in helping him move along the path.
It was a nice surprise to have the great Bambi Cantrell on this trip. She’s a well-known wedding and portrait shooter who has only recently started exploring landscape photography. As only Bambi can, she brought her big personality and extreme sense of artistry to the Palouse and we all benefitted from it.
We did have an opportunity to photograph a local cowboy and cowgirl. Bambi took over during the portrait sessions and the students all agreed this was a nice bonus that taught them much. Heck I even learned something. Bambi is a natural teacher and she isn’t the least bit shy. (Sounds like someone else we know? :))
Bambi suggested we not use the directions “Turn your head to the right – or turn your head to the left.” Instead, she suggested we try simply pointing the direction we want the subject to look or move, etc. This is less confusing to the subject. Great tip Bambi.
Bambi reminded all of us to look for the light, search out the beauty and capture the art of the landscape. These are all good lessons and her skill at chipping in on the workshop proves the point that we shouldn’t get too bogged down in our particular genre of photography. It’s all photography, no matter what we shoot.
One of my newer protges, Ara Roselani also came by for a day of the workshop on Saturday. So get this. Ara works a full-time job all week in Portland, Oregon. She ets off work Friday at 5:00 pm. She hops in her car, drives the six hours it takes to get to Colfax, WA where we based the workshop.gets a few hours sleep and is up at 0400 hours to go up to Steptoe Butte with us the next morning. She had to turn around and drive back to Portland the next day so she could work at her regular job. That kind of dedication and purpose is rare in most of the young people I meet. Not so in Ara’s case. She works harder than the next person all the time. No wonder she ended up recently winning our Aperture Nature Photography Workshop contest and making the finalist list for the Emerging Photographer of the Year contest. Ara demonstrates that if you really want to make it in photography and you’re willing to work your rear end off, you can. Way to go Ara.
As for other things I learned – well they’re mostly re-learned, old lessons. Getting up before the sun on a cold morning may not be your idea of a fun time, but if you can make yourself do it, being around to photograph the sweet light that flows around sunrise is a nice reward. The horse shot I got because I dragged myself out of bed reminded me that the great photos don’t get made unless you make the effort to go and capture them.
I also learned that the newbies were probably having more fun than the rest of us. Here’s what I mean by that. They were able to simply be in the moment and take it all in. I remember that stage of my career and frankly, I’m a bit jealous of those who live in that moment. Because like everything else I’ve experienced, it’s the journey that often counts for the most. Sometimes, I get too wrapped up in the business of photography. That’s a natural problem to have if you do this for a living. But those who don’t rely on photography to keep food on the table can simply enjoy the experience without regard for the outcome. I know this lesson well. When I remember it, I revert back to the kind of picture making that causes people to stand up and pay attention. I need to be more like the newbies.